08/20/2007 11:00PM

My Typhoon gets another test

Brandon Benson/NYRA
Trainers Cristophe Clement and Bill Mott will saddle four of the nine horses in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga on Thursday, including My Typhoon who won the Diana for Mott earlier in the meet.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Christophe Clement picked up the past performances for Thursday's $200,000 Ballston Spa Handicap at Saratoga and analyzed the field from top to bottom as his good friend and main competition in the Grade 2 race, Bill Mott, listened with keen interest.

Clement and Mott will saddle four of the nine starters in the 1 1/16-mile Ballston Spa. Clement will send out Meribel and the once-beaten Vacare, while Mott counters with the 122-pound highweight and favorite My Typhoon along with Pomme Frites. The field also includes Eclipse Award champion Wait a While, Mauralakana, Iron Goddess, Amansara, and Dance Away Capote.

"He's trying to psych me out," laughed Mott as Clement continued to go down the starting lineup predicting who will set the pace, who might stalk, and who will come from behind. "He's telling me everything about my horses in this race except where I'll finish."

The majority of the betting public is likely to wager that defending champion My Typhoon will finish first and add the Ballston Spa to her recent string of victories, which includes a game decision over Argentina in the Grade 1 Diana four weeks earlier along with Grade 2 tallies in the Just a Game and Jenny Wiley stakes. A year ago, My Typhoon rebounded from a fourth-place finish over yielding turf in the Diana to post a gate-to-wire three-quarter-length decision in the Ballston Spa.

"We ran in both races with her last year and we figured on the possibility of making both again this summer, since there isn't much else for her if we don't want to stretch her out to a mile and one-quarter for the Flower Bowl," Mott said. "She's continued to do real well since the Diana, but this is a very tough race, probably as good a field of horses as we faced in the Diana."

Pommes Frites is coming off a 1 1/4-length triumph in Monmouth Park's Lighthouse Stakes on July 7 and figures to be among the pacesetters Thursday.

A legitimate pace is key to Clement's chances, especially with Meribel, a stretch-runner who rallied from last to finish fourth, less than two lengths behind My Typhoon in the Diana.

"Pace is an important factor and it seems like the pace in a lot of these turf races around here has been slow of late," Clement said. "When My Typhoon won the Just a Game, she went the opening half in 49 and came home the last half in 45 and 4. If they walk in front like that on Thursday, they'll be tough to catch."

Vacare, winner of the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last year at 3, suffered her first defeat in six career starts when she finished third in Hollywood Park's Grade 1 Gamely Stakes on May 28, a race Clement believes may have been every bit as tough as the Ballston Spa.

Wait a While has yet to reproduce the form this season that saw her win two Grade 1 stakes and finish fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf during her championship 3-year-old campaign. She'll receive a one-pound concession from My Typhoon in the Ballston Spa.

"I think she's been just as good this year as last, but she's just been a little unlucky," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "She ran a very solid race beating Precious Kitten in her first start of the year, the next one over the Polytrack was just a throw out, and we just didn't give My Typhoon enough respect and let her get away with soft fractions in the Just a Game. This is obviously not a two-horse race, but we'll still identify My Typhoon as the horse to beat and probably take a closer look at the pace scenario on Thursday."

Mauralakana will add blinkers after finishing sixth in the Diana.

Iron Goddess could provide the speed Clement is looking for after posting back-to-back sprint victories on the turf in June.

Dance Away Capote has captured 2 of her last 3 starts, both restricted stakes, but will get a major class check in the Ballston Spa.

Amansara finished second making her 2007 debut in the De La Rose Stakes three weeks earlier.